The Bassoonjedi's Weblog

Advanced Bassoonery: Time Travel
August 20, 2009, 2:36 pm
Filed under: Bassoon & Performance | Tags: ,


Earlier in the blog, I wrote about Self-Critique and instilling this process in young students. I usually reserve today’s method for advanced students. Once they have reached a level of comprehension where they are focused

on breath control, dynamics, and clean fingering to reach a top speed of perfection, I like to make their world even more intricate and introduce the idea of time traveling.

This is a method that I discovered after reading The Watchmen by Alan Moore. Near the center of the book, Dr. Manhattan reflects on time on the surface of Mars. The key sentence to me was “All we ever see of stars are their old photographs.” as Moore explains how the light traveling to us is so old that we don’t get to see the stars as they are. This thought married my comic book geek world with my musical world, and opened a portal of musical conscious to me that allowed me to relate the process to my students as a side effect of self critique.

An advanced musician can exist simultaneously in 3 main temporal states as they perform. The first being the present as they perform their music, they move through time as the notes are dictated to them. The second is the past. The musician catalogs all the aspects of their performance, good and bad to reflect on later for analysis and improvement. The third is the future, where student should look ahead to anticipate key changes in meter, dynamic, and problem areas.

Most musicians will say, “Well duh! We ALL do that.”, but at what depth? Explaining this to a student is usually the first hurdle, and I usually pull this out of my bag of tricks once a student has reached a plateau so they will be inspired to move forward. I usually explain that the human brain moves at the speed of light (usually I pepper in a lot of Flash comments. I’m a comic book geek, can you blame me?), and the brain can handle the load of processing three different states of being at once if properly nurtured. They are usually examining their performance and taking mental notes on mistakes as they perform, so they have already achieved a state of duality. One of the first advanced techniques introduced is anticipation. Reading ahead, and adjusting performance which is another dual reality. The key element that marries these states of being is the music. It is the constant moving through time. Its steady march from beginning to end is the anchor through this temporal journey, and will help keep you focused as you flex your consciousness through the past, and look into the future at the same time.

Again the mastery of this technique takes a while as you train your brain to focus on different temporal states at once. Then it is a matter of how far in the past and future you are willing to travel while in the present, and eventually how wide your focus can be. My main goal is to reach the middle of the piece and see not only how the rest of the performance will transpire, but also look all the way to the beginning and see how it went. Some pieces are easier than others due to duration and difficulty, but with a discipline to focus forward and backwards simultaneously, you can reach exponential growth.

All good things in time I guess.


I Have Issues 8.20.2009

Blackest Night: Superman #1

Blackest Night: Superman #1

Blackest Night: Superman#1

Written by James Robinson;
Art & cover by Eddy Barrows and Ruy Jose
Variant cover by Shane Davis and Sandra Hope

I think what sums up this book the best is a bit from Bill Cosby’s “Himself” album:

What is it about cocaine?

Well…it intensifies your personality.

Yes, but what if you’re an asshole?

Of all the tie-in titles to Blackest Night, this was the book I was looking forward to the least. I’m not much of a Superman fan, and have never felt any suspense for a character who is super at everything, but after reaching the end of this book I was happy I read it. As I previously stated in my review of Blackest Night: Batman, these tie-in issues are painfully developed with a first issue that will drag the pacing in order to get the reader “up to speed”.  Thankfully, Robinson assumes that a reader who is picking up this book is also reading the main event book, and jumps right to the story at hand. With exposition taken out of a typical quiet-town-horror-film we are taken on a journey that reinforces the ideas that the Black Lanterns are merciless, single-minded in purpose, but they also retain their senses to know how to inflict the most pain they can on their targets. Their vicious tenacity to kill everyone they come in contact becomes more intensified as this damned power of the Black Lanterns corrupts E2 Superman, and for once, it looks like the Superman “family” is no longer impervious to the threats of the DC universe. The danger is real as Kal-L creates a conflict reminiscent of a Star Wars light saber Battle as Conner and Clark fight against a darker version of themselves.

The art in this book illustrates the story well, catching the right beats and emotions, but the coloring is the star if this book. The variations of the emotional spectrum through the eyes of the Black Lanterns stand out more than in the main title, and make this book a keeper. The main idea behind a tie-in for me is to illustrate the outer fringes of the main story, and this book continues to reinforce the curiosity I have for this entire event.

How will they get out of this one?

Story: 4/5

Art: 4.5/5

Invincible #65

Invincible #65

Invincible #65

Story Robert Kirkman
Art & cover by Ryan Ottley & Fco Plascencia

Once again, a large event passes by in the Invincible Universe, and Kirkman deftly sweeps up the remains while setting up the next story. Kirkman crafts a story with his strengths of writing personal loss and interaction as the world dusts itself off from the events of the past 6 issues. The art in this book was just as solid handling the quiet interactions as it was with the intense fighting scenes that preceded it. The coloring and shading were well done as every character had just as much depth to them physically as Kirkman wrote them emotionally.

I’m going to be sad to see Ottley leave the book for the next exciting story, but happy to see this book come to a close worthy of the weight that was called for. As always, the highlight of every issue for me was the letters column where in this particular book, the vicious nature of irate fan boys was put on full display. At this point in his career, I have come to expect a good issue from Kirkman on all his endeavors. What catches my attention now, is his patience for handling these crazed loonies who buy his books every month, and are emotionally invested enough to write what they do in response to his stories.

Story: 4/5

Art: 4/5

I Have Issues 8.14.09 – Blackest Reviews

SPOILER WARNING: If you haven’t read these books yet do so before proceeding.

I got quite a few books this week, but haven’t been able to get through the whole stack yet. In the meantime, here are the Blackest night books that came out this week:

Blackest Night: Batman #1 - Kalimaaaaaaaah

BlackeBlackest Night: Batman #1 - Kalimaaaaaaaahst Night : Batman #1

Written by: Peter Tomasi

Art by: Syaf, Dell, Cifuentes

From the solicits a few months ago, I knew that Blackest Night would be the comic book cross over event that I would actually pull every book. Batman? Pull it. Wonder Woman? Pull it. Feo Boy? Eeehhhh….Pull it. I’m not normally a Batman reader, but I have always liked the Graysons, and I knew that Tim Drake’s family had to play into this. The Bat-Family has suffered some grievous blows the past few months with the death of Bruce, Damien being Robin, Tim taking the Red Robin Mantle, and Jason finally leaving. Well, the last one was a good thing. But, with such loss and mortal endings, Blackest Night should really resonate with these underpowered vigilantes.

However, the first issue of this book suffers from the same Cross-Over problems that all side books suffer from. The first issue of a cruddy tie-in always makes the same mistake of having these characters take 22 pages to get YOU caught up on the action. Frankly, if you aren’t reading the main event, then why are you pulling the tie-in? Wouldn’t you know what’s going on? Skip to the good stuff man! “Final Crisis: Rogues Revenge” worked on two levels for being a good tie-in to a major event.

1)      The first issue didn’t spend 22 pages getting you caught up on what’s happening. It just leapt into the action and meat of the story.

2)      It had nothing to do with Final Crisis. Frankly, No one knew what the hell was going on in Final Crisis anyway, so a boring summary wasn’t possible.

The artists did a fantastic job of illustrating the story as Deadman leaps from one body to another, but the way the acrobatics were illustrated, such as Brand/Damian back flipping onto the hood of the batmobile seemed a little too ethereal, and used the same convention for illustrating ghosts, rather than sequences of acrobatic maneuvers. Story-wise, I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out. Tomasi is doing a great job plate-spinning with Green Lantern Corps, and I’m sure that the story of our heroes confronting their dead relatives will be both heart-wrenching, and exciting to witness. Unfortunately, you just don’t get to the heart of the story until the last 2 pages of this issue. Story: 3/5

Art: 3/5

Green Lantern Corps #39

Green Lantern Corps #39

Story by: Peter Tomasi

Art by: Gleason, Buchman, Nguyen

Blackest Night continues as we catch-up with our favoriteGreen Lantern Corps #39 honor guard. I really admire Tomasi’s ability to write in such a large scope, and keep the book interesting. He is writing a buddy-cop adventure that is infused with a cosmic war and romance without getting bogged down in cheap dialogue, and slow pacing. The art illustrates the story well as we change scenery from the dead of space, to crypts, to cityscapes. The black rings breaking through the lantern constructs was especially nice, and I don’t envy anyone that has to illustrate Kyle Rainer’s mask without making it look like a cornball 1990’s cartoon.

My gripe with this book is that the editing team didn’t accelerate this book’s publishing schedule to compensate for the story’s timing. Green Lantern #36 followed Blackest Night #1 one week after with a seamless story that never dropped a beat. In Green Lantern Corps #39, we are basically treated to the same scenes we saw in Blackest Night #1, and not much else. Frankly I was expecting to see a massive fight between the GL corps as they fight their honored dead, more scenes with the Guardians, and more scenes from the War of Light that is raging across the galaxy.

I’ll have to wait for next month to see all that I guess. Story: 2/5

Art: 3/5

Blackest Night #2

Blackest Night #2

Blackest Night #2

Story by: Geoff Johns

Art by: Ivan Reis

Going from “meh” to “Yeah!”, we finally reach Blackest Night #2. Johns puts the story in drive and keeps accelerating as DC’s Zombie Comic unfolds. This book has several things going for it, and this issue has quite a few moments that will stick in my mind for a long while. I’m glad no one else was in the house Wednesday night because I actually yelled “Hells Yes!”, and “Take it bitch!” a few times without even realizing I did so.

Firstly, I have NEVER liked Aquaman much. Like the majority of the comic book population, I just don’t really care. Be it Aquaman or Namor, I don’t care if there’s a guy who has sea-powers. When you bring in writing’s greatest cheat of magic into the mix, I can’t be bothered. However, seeing the sea king rise from his grave and use his telepathy to rip apart the Atlantian soldiers was a hundred time better than seeing him “Save the day” on Superfriends. My favorite part of the panel with the sharks erupting out of the water to rip the royal escort apart was the cuddly Sea Lion that was ripping off a soldier’s lips. You are a sick man Ivan Reis.

The second moment that got me was when Barry and Hal team up to take out J’onn. The words “Flash Fact” ALWAYS get me, and in that moment, I was ecstatic. Unfortunately for our heroes, their creativity was met with disappointing results, which brings me to the greatest strength of this book. The “How the hell will they get out of this one?” story that Johns is writing is fantastic. Most events, such as Infinite Crisis, Secret invasion, and Final Crisis have some dark moments, but as a reader I always knew that the heroes will save the day. In this book, I’m not so sure. With the powers and resiliency that the Black Lanterns exhibit, I don’t have an inkling of how our heroes will save the day, or even survive.

The only way this book could get any better is if they would double the size of each issue, and give us more scenes about the Guardians and the War of Light. This week’s Blackest Night stories are very self-contained and small in scope as we are Earth-bound and reading about the same fights from issue #1. The only thing I fear about this series isn’t a zombie Justice League, but the story collapsing under the weight of such a massive scope. The personal character development needed to address the weight of sorrow and loss is a stark contrast to the great galactic disaster that is spreading across the stars. Still, I’m eagerly looking forward to more.

Story: 4/5

Art: 4/5

I have Issues Recommended Media

Fanboy Radio

Toldlogohis particular podcast has reached over 500 episodes, and I have been a faithful listener since I first discovered them in 2005. This particular podcast isn’t a bunch of geeks sitting in their parents’ basement, blazed and shouting into a cheap microphone. Fanboy radio is an actual radio program that focuses on creator interviews, produced at home station at KTCU FM 88.7 – The Choice in Dallas/Ft. Worth.

What first attracted me to the podcast was the high quality of the show, the fun shows such as “Stump Mark Waid”, and the camaraderie between Scott Hinze and Oliver Tull. Admittedly, I don’t enjoy the episodes that are missing Oliver as he travels with his comedy troupe, but I still faithfully listen every week to a new episode, and it is one of the few podcasts where I am occasionally inspired to call in and voice my opinion.

One chief ingredient that Fanboy Radio is missing would be the hate. Scott and Oliver only talk about the books in a positive manner, and rarely critique a movie or book as harsh as most fanboys indulge themselves. Another strength of the show is the menagerie of independent creators and writers that will call in such a Scott Kurtz and Jim Mahfood. Also their game show, Sub of Flub, is usually quite enjoyable as guests will voice their opinion on current pop-culture news.

This podcast ranks high with me since you get interviews from comic industry professionals, reviews of current comics, recommended reads, and news from the industry. To learn more about Fanboy Radio visit their site, and try and episode off iTunes.

Bassoonery 101 – Welcome to Flagellation

I know I promised an article with vowel sounds, but I will probably write that article later in the week. Keep an eye on your RSS feeds and readers for that update. Today’s Bassoonery 101 is what I consider a key element to teaching music in a general practice. After the third lesson or so, the student has found their pitch center and is starting to explore the range of the instrument. They also begin to venture into the depths of the Weissenborn beginner lessons. Once a student begins to tackle entire strains of music without fumbling for fingerings or pitch centers I begin to ask them the following questions:


What did you think of your performance?

What did you like about your performance?

What would you improve about your performance?


And with those questions, I introduce them to a world of self-inflicted criticism that is a key element to becoming a musician. Music performance is a competitive practice by nature. The first years of a musician’s life are shaped a competitive environment until they reach a certain mastery-level that focuses more on taste and interpretation in favor of technique. Most music programs today begin in classroom environments such as band, orchestra, or choir. The students who will grow into advanced musicians respond to this classroom competition environment with an instinct to be first chair, or the best in their section. The student’s desire to take lessons, or at least attend them periodically, nurtures that instinct. Taking lessons helps the student move up in the section, or grow as fast as the musicians they are surrounded by. And their music lessons should help answer questions that will begin to surface.

How do I make first chair?

How can I get into All-State band?

How do I win a Scholarship?

As a teacher I want to feed this instinct, and by fostering the routine of self reflection, the student will begin to self-correct, and speed up the learning process.

What did you think of your performance?

What did you like about your performance?

What would you improve about your performance?

Notice the key words here as well. Even though a student may be as young as 10 or 11, I still use the term “Performance”. I like to have them acquainted with the idea that every time they play, they perform. Every etude is a performance, every scale they play is a performance, and every solo piece is a performance. The self reflective natures of the questions are also ordered depending on mood. If the student slumps after playing an etude, knowing they will have to answer the questions with disappointment, I naturally leave the “What did you like?” question for last. If I’m trying to keep a lesson on track, the “What would you improve?” is always last.

By repeatedly asking these questions, I set a habit for the student to question their performance when they go home to practice. If you can install the habit of self critique, you have sped up the learning process and given the student a gift.

Coming soon: The advanced critique method known in the Bassonjedi studio as “Time Travel”.

I Have Issues Trade Review: Bone Volume 1
August 10, 2009, 4:44 pm
Filed under: General Geekness, Graphic Novels & Comic books | Tags: , ,

Bone Volume 1: Out From Boneville

Written & Illustrated by Jeff Smith

Writing: 5/5

Art: 5/5

I must say that I have avoided reading this book for years. Some books have been lauded and built up to a point where there is no satisfaction in reading them. You hear people speak of them as the end-all-be-all of literature, and in the graphic novel/comic book arena these enthusiastic endorsements can run out of control. The latest disappointment for me was “Secret Invasion”. It had some “Holy Crap!” moments, but in the end was a “meh”. You can hear one starry-eyed review after another, until you finally snap, read the book, and walk away feeling like you were suckered. Comic book shops in Southern Florida have many Bone toys, books, posters, and other assorted merchandising in them which screamed “Children’s book” to me. The Scholastic logo on the front of the books always rubbed me the wrong way. “Crap it’s a kid’s book”. The illustrations were always simple, and had no semblance of “reality”. I was a macho, adult reader that enjoyed the “deep” books by Vertigo about Dream Lords, and Lucifer, and untraceable bullets. Characters that had raunchy sex, and violent murders. So, what was the big deal with this kids’ book?

During my usual Saturday trip to the library, Bone Volume 1 finally appealed to me enough to overcome the “hype-fear” and check it out. I must say it was on the bottom of my reading pile, even underneath the “Blackberry for Dummies” book I had checked out that day too. (I can’t figure out how to get apps to automatically shut down when I am done with them. I MUST be missing something). So on Saturday afternoon I finally decided to see what Bone was all about.

I felt like an idiot. Why did I resist for so long? This wasn’t a stupid-assed kids book. This was just a book. A book for everyone. Lately I have been bemoaning the lack of entertainment I enjoyed in 80s. Where were the TV shows and movies that kids enjoyed, but had sly adult humor laced in them? Where were the E.T.s, and the Muppet Show? Well, Bone is a book that helped keep the dream of something for everyone alive. After my first reading, I checked the jacket cover to make sure Bill Waterson hadn’t written and drawn this. It read and looked like Calvin and Hobbes. Clean artwork that was simple, but dynamically drawn to capture the peak actions frozen in time. Characters that interacted with each other organically, and writing that was witty with jokes that weren’t aimed at the lowest common denominator.

Jeff Smith should be proud of the Fanboy ravings he received on this work. You can tell a lot of love went into this book, and every panel mattered. It wasn’t a race from one peak panel to another, but truly a story told with sequential artwork. Congrats Jeff, the gamble to read this “kid’s book” paid off, and I’m looking forward to reading more.

To Craig:
August 6, 2009, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,